Is allowing the use of service animals and therapy pets in campus housing considered a reasonable accommodation?

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Fair Housing Act require that institutions such as campus residence halls accommodate individuals with service animals. A service animal (e.g., guide dog, service dog) is specially trained to perform specific tasks to benefit a person with a disability. Tasks may include guiding, retrieving dropped items, and/or alerting to danger or sounds. Without the service animal the individual with a disability may not have an equal opportunity to use or reside independently in the dwelling. Typically, a person who uses a service animal can provide documentation of the training that meets the ADA definition of a service animal.

Therapy pets or companion animals may serve a therapeutic purpose (e.g., alleviate depression in an individual with a psychiatric disability), but they are not usually trained to assist a person or to perform specific tasks. Therapy animals are generally considered pets, whereas service animals are considered "working animals." An institution may be required to modify their policies or practices for an animal that meets the ADA definition of a service animal but not be required to modify their policies or practices for an animal that does not meet this ADA definition.

For additional information on making campus housing more accessible to students with disabilities, consult the Housing and Residential Life area of The Student Services Conference Room.